How Complementary Colors Work in Web Design

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How Complementary Colors Work in Web Design

The impact of color in Web Design

There is an entire science behind colors and why they impact users the way they do. Designers understand some hues clash while others complement one another. Most designers are also skilled at putting a palette together that reflects the personality of the brand. Complementary colors, however, have several advantages that improve the overall impact of a design and draw users in.

Complementary shades are opposite one another on the color wheel. Red and green and blue and orange are some examples. Of course, there are hundreds of different shades within color families, so you must also consider contrast and analogous tones, which next to one another on the wheel.

When it comes to web design, there are some specific things you can do with your color choices to keep from overwhelming your site visitors and improve conversion rates.

1. Know What Colors Mean

Colors have different psychologies to them. Have you ever noticed the way most banks use some form of blue? This is a color liked by most people and seen as trustworthy and stable. On the other hand, if you were trying to market to teen girls, you might use a fuschia pink instead to signal fun and youthfulness. Although you must also use common sense and thoroughly test different choices, follow the general guidelines of what emotions different colors evoke in consumers.

2. Check First Impressions

People form first impressions of your brand in mere seconds based on the aesthetics of your site. No matter what complementary colors you use or in what combination, test the impact on your visitors. Conduct A/B split testing and see which combinations work best for your particular audience. If you're torn between a couple of color choices, test each combination to see which converts best.

3. Choose a Main Color

Have you ever walked into a room that has so many colors it looks like a paint factory exploded? When it comes to utilizing complementary colors, you don't need an exact balance of each shade. Instead, choose a main one and then add the others as accents. Use it in the background or for your CTA buttons, for example.

 meco image

MECO uses different shades of blue, even implementing it into the hero photos at the top of its home page. It then pulls in just a touch of red and yellow into the minor elements in those photos, such as in a tank to one side or a yellow beam in the background. The colors aren't overwhelming to the eye because the complementary colors are used to accent only small portions of the whole.

4. Stand Out From the Competition

Perhaps purple and yellow are your colors of choice, but your competitor uses the same thing and you want to stand out. Consider colors analogous to purple on the color wheel and shift your focus ever so slightly. Another option is using a different shade of purple than your competitor's. Consistency helps you establish brand recognition, so use the same colors on your website and social media accounts.

5. Use Color to Drive Conversions

The color button you choose for your CTA should contrast with the other shades on the page and still tie into your theme. The goal is grabbing the user's attention without doing so in a jarring way. If you know your site visitors respond well to red CTA buttons, you can add complementary tones in your background and other accents on the page. Use the color wheel and see what is opposite the shade of red you've chosen.

 giovanni rana image

Giovanni Rana has a yellow CTA has a deep, dark blue CTA button that reads "Discover More." The color is repeated in its logo and product packaging. However, it also uses a burst of complementary yellow for the letters and across the top of the page for navigation.

6. Highlight Important Information

Complementary colors work well to highlight featured information. The human eye needs a break from the same color, so it seeks another pattern. This draws the user to what you want them to see. Examples of when to use a complementary color to highlight info would be when you're hosting a big clearance sale or you want to announce a new product launch.

7. Use Negative Space

No matter what color palette you choose, you need a balance of positive and negative space. Look at the overall design of your page. For example, if you have written content, you might use black text on a white background and then choose two complementary colors for the navigation and calls to action. You don't have to fill every inch of screen space with bright colors. It's fine to have some space without anything at all.

 marcos pizza image

Marco's Pizza uses negative space in a grid layout and then utilizes red for splashes of color. It also uses charcoal as the background on the page. The use of negative space creates a clean, uncluttered look, which would work well with any complementary color scheme.

8. Use a Color Calculator

If you're struggling to come up with a complementary color you like, pull in tools such as a color calculator. Either choose a shade from the color wheel or punch in the HEX code and choose a harmony. You can try different combinations until you come up with the perfect palette of complementary colors.

9. Improve Readability

Complementary colors help create opacity with themes utilizing photos in the background. The contrast helps make the words easy to skim over. Busy people often don't have time to read in-depth, so when you use complimentary colors wisely, you can make headlines stand out and even create articles that are pleasing to the eye.

Get a Professional Edge

If your website isn't converting the way you'd like, it may be because your designs need to be taken up a notch or two. The combination of colors on your site impacts the way people feel when they land on your page. Complementary colors are just one way of making an impact on site visitors and give your company an extra edge.